I am one of over 2,500 of the elderly, the disabled, and the working poor displaced in recent years by Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Hotels going market rate. After living at the Chateau Hotel for about 1 1/2 years, the SRO hotel was sold to BJB Properties. You can see it here and also meet the lawyer that oversaw the transaction. As part of BJB’s plan to vacate the building prior to its gut rehab, all tenants were given their first 30 day notices on 1/30/13. After being homeless and living in other SROs several times in the last decade, I really didn’t want to look for another place to live because I knew how hard it would be, especially after four other Lakeview SROs had recently been converted to market rate by BJB. Soon after, I received a flier for a Lakeview Action Coalition tenant meeting to discuss our rights and options. At that meeting I first met LAC organizers, and the lawyers of the Uptown People’s Law Center, who would represent many of the tenants of the Chateau Hotel. I was not alone and I was now empowered to fight for myself and others like me.
My first action with LAC was a protest march outside the newly gutted Abbott Hotel and Ald. Tunney’s Ann Sather’s restaurant. In the last year I have also spoken at a news conference outside the Chateau Hotel, was part of the “Funeral for Diversity” action in Uptown, met with affordable housing members from both LAC and ONE, met with several alderman, met with BJB partner Jamie Purcell twice, along with the 10 housing providers that he was introduced to.
After leaving the Chateau on 6/21/13, I moved in to my friend’s apartment. My friend’s health issues increased when his cousin started living with us without his family’s support. For my own safety and mental health, it became necessary for me to leave and go to the Cornerstone homeless shelter in Uptown for about 1 1/2 months. In October, I received a letter from Thresholds, saying that I had been selected from the CHA wait list to start the application process to be among the first residents of the Fred and Pamela Buffett Place, the new name for the rehabbed former Diplomat Hotel, an SRO near Belmont and Sheffield. The process in getting accepted by the CHA took several months, several meetings, lots of paperwork, and some patience on my part. The wait was well worth it.
Prior to my joining LAC, they had organized for over a decade to keep the Diplomat as affordable housing. The Diplomat had been closed and owned by the city for a couple of years before they sold it to Thresholds and the developer Brinshore. Prospective tenants and Thresholds supporters’ first real look at the new Buffett Place happened at the grand opening on 1/30. A couple of weeks later, tenants selected their rooms. I was among the first half dozen tenants to move in on 2/24. Buffett Place is clean, safe, and affordable housing for all the tenants.
The community organizing victory at the Diplomat/Buffett Place is what created the opportunity for me and 50 others to continue living in Lakeview, the neighborhood I have called home since February 1989. We continue to organize to preserve units of affordable housing at the Chateau. And I am now involved in ONE Northside’s organizing to pass an ordinance that would preserve the remaining SROs across the entire city, because we have learned that if we want to preserve affordable housing, we need to be proactive, and cannot wait until these buildings are sold to market rate developers.
You can get more information about Thresholds Buffett Place at buffettplace.com, and you can see a WTTW interview of Robert about Buffett Place here: http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2014/03/12/buffett-place.